192. Soulcare check-up – part II

Who wants to be happy? Many scientific studies have pointed to the idea that being grateful has an amazing by-product: ‘happiness’.

Practice gratitude – one of the best practices for good mental health.

Praise the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, praise his holy Name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Psalm 103

The greek word for gratitude is ‘eucharistan’ built around the word ‘charis’ which means grace. It’s an intriguing idea, that gratitude and grace are inextricably linked. In Psalm 103 King David instructs his own soul to remember the ‘benefits’ of God. He is training his soul in the ways of gratitude, listing gifts he could never have earned in a million years!

Forgiveness, healing, and redemption – gifts of grace to a world loved by God. I use the word ‘training’ deliberately. I think we can have a belief that gratitude has to arise spontaneously in our souls and that we have no real control over it. David shows us another way, he tells his soul to remember God’s gracious provision. He chooses a posture of gratitude amidst circumstances that were offering plenty of opportunities for bitterness and cynicism. The psalm ends with David instructing the whole of creation and the angelic host to join in with the praise of his own soul. ‘Charis’ has become ‘eucharisto’, grace has become gratitude.

Summer Soulfood Challenge

  • Read the Psalm every day for a week.
  • Make a gratitude list.
  • List 10 things that are life-giving to you.
  • Tell someone else today what God has done for you
  • Start each day with thanks.
  • Write a thankfulness prayer or a song.
  • What strategy can you adopt to cultivate a permanent orientation towards gratitude?

“We have found the one experience that increases both people’s awareness of God and also their experience of the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives… is gratitude. When people experience gratitude, just gratefulness for being alive or for life as a gift, it means that I experience more of God in my life and more of His fruit in my life.”
J. Ortberg from SoulPulse

Live the bible

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1

bible

Indulge me for a minute and imagine something. Imagine that the pages of your bible had a peculiar quality about them. Imagine that when you got near to the bible you could hear a faint hum coming from it. That when you went to touch it, you felt heat coming from its pages. I imagine you could see it moving slightly, say expanding and contracting as if it was quietly breathing. Imagine it was alive! A strange thought? Maybe – but if it was, how would you treat it? How would you read it?

Threaded throughout the bible is the idea that the words of God are alive and have an extraordinary power to shape our lives. It’s ‘living and active, sharper than a sword’– says the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, ‘it penetrates right down to soul and spirit.’ Allowing our lives, our souls, our brains, to be shaped by the ‘living words’ of scripture has a radical affect on us.

The writer of Psalm 1 tells us that meditating on God’s law (his ways and commands in scripture) stabilises our lives, makes us fruitful and enables us to flourish even when trouble comes. But, meditating has to be accompanied by action – by actively choosing goodness, and to run from sin and cynicism. Action and meditation go hand in hand, the bible needs to be lived, not just read. Remember this when you next open it’s pages – and lean in, perhaps you will hear it humming.

“The Bible is no mere book, but it’s a living creature with a power that conquers all who oppose it.”
Napoleon

Summer Soulfood Challenge

  • Live the bible – make some proactive changes to your life in response to what is written.
  • Forgive someone
  • Give something away,
  • Practice hospitality,
  • Learn how to meditate on scripture – lectio divina
  • Ask God to shape your thought life, your habits and your attitudes through his living words.
  • “Open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer.”
    John Piper
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